Monday, October 27, 2014

Update on Gaza 10/23/2014

After the latest Israeli offensive into Gaza last August, living conditions have worsened considerably. Families and communities are still grieving the 500 children killed by Israeli airstrikes. Another 400,000 children have been severely traumatized: nightmares, inability to concentrate, anger, and deep sadness continue to haunt children long after the bombs stopped falling. Daily life has become untenable. Water and sewage treatment plants are nearly non-functional, heightening fears of an impending public health crisis. At least 175 businesses were destroyed in the bombing, putting thousands out of work. Unemployment has reached record levels: 50% among adults and over 60% among youth. More than 57,000 displaced persons are being sheltered in schools administered by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees. An additional 40,000 to 50,000 remain with host families.
It has been estimated that the reconstruction of Gaza will cost the international donor community at least $7.8 billion. Yet, this figure may be far too low. Should only the destruction from last summer’s offensive be repaired, or should it include the damage from Israeli military operations of 2000, 2003, 2005, and 2006? Some experts believe that the cycle of military offensives and rebuilding cannot continue. 

At some point, the area will become such a wasteland – economically, ecologically, psychologically – that the residents will simply leave. The wounds of war will have become too deep to heal. 

Palestinian families have already begun to take this step, says historian Sara Roy. For the first time in history, a true exodus is taking place. Hundreds of Gazans have already been smuggled through tunnels to Egypt where they have boarded ships to cross the Mediterranean. Palestinians from all social strata and all political camps are leaving. Even members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are sending their children abroad to give them a chance at a better future.

Cynics might say this has been Israel's goal all along -- to reclaim all of historic Palestine by any means necessary. Through settlement building, humiliating checkpoints, imprisonment, torture, restriction of food and medicine, and recurrent military terror, Israel will force Palestinians to give up what remains of their homeland. And within their new borders, perhaps, Israelis will finally feel secure.

But as Quakers are convinced, true security cannot be attained through violence. As the world sees ever more clearly the lives of the Palestinians under Israel's harsh rule, as more nations support Palestine's quest for statehood, and as Israel finds itself increasingly isolated through boycott, divestment, and sanctions, pressure is mounting on Israel's leaders to move beyond oppression, fear, and self-righteousness. Security for one can only be built on security for all.